Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Large Bells G. W. Coffin Bell

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    • #11368
      MikeR
      Member

      Hello everyone, I am new to this forum and to bells in general. This forum has been very helpful as I look for information on a bell I just acquired so I decided to join, hopefully post some pictures, and get some answers to my questions. I have searched previous posts and haven’t found anything describing my particular bell. If anyone can point me in the right direction or offer pertinent information I would greatly appreciate it.
      I have a bell with an inscription around the top that reads “G. W. Coffin Buckeye Bell Foundry Cincinnati”. It is 19.75 inches in diameter and 16 inches tall without the yoke. It has what appears to be the original hardware. The bell had several coats of paint on it and appeared to be a fairly rough casting so I originally thought it was cast iron. I disassembled the bell and it appears to be some type of brass or bronze alloy with numerous casting imperfections. After removing the rough casting material and polishing it looks like sliver then after a few days it takes on a more silvery bronze color. The tone sounds very good with quite a bit of resonance. The only marking is “B 147-R” cast on the underside of the retaining ring below the locknuts. The yoke is cast iron but the clapper assembly and ringer arm appear to be hand formed wrought iron.
      Thanks,
      Mike

    • #15589
      lucky13
      Member

      Mike: What little we know so far about Buckeye Bell Foundry (either GW Coffin or Vanduzen & Tift) has been covered in “Bell Talk” forums. The first hundred years of the foundry’s records were destroyed in a 1937 flood. Your bell was cast between 1837 and 1865. Most Coffin bells I’ve seen bear the year of casting but some of the smaller ones don’t. It might have been used on a steamboat, plantation, school, or even a church that could not afford a larger bell. A good machine shop should be able to fashion a pair of stands for hanging.

    • #15590
      MikeR
      Member

      Thanks for the response. This bell must have been on a steamboat or something that constantly moved because it has a good bit of wear on the areas that pivot. I was in the metal fabrication and repair business for many years so it can make whatever I need if I can find out what the original mounts looked like.
      Thanks again,
      Mike

    • #15588
      Neil Goeppinger
      Participant

      Hello Mike, You’ve got a VERY nice bell, for your first bell. G. W. Coffin and another firm were the only one’s which made highly ornamented bells in the U.S. Yours is not so highly ornamented, but some of their large bells had dancing girls with veils circleing the bell, and many had puti doing different things circleling the top.

      You are correct about the metal. All Coffin bells were bronze – 78 to 80% copper and the remainder tin. They were gold color when new, then with age, after about 80 years the tin flecks which didn’t completely amalgumate with the copper work their way to the surface as the copper is washed off by condensation (the bell changes temperature more slowly than the air) so the bell takes on a silver or grey color. If you polish it lightly, it shines like a tin can. If you agressively polish it, you remove the thin coat of tin and it again looks gold.

      G. W. Coffin stood for George Washington Coffin. His folks must have thought alot of our country’s founding father. After Vanduzen took over the foundry, he changed the shape of the bells which improved the tone, but he also dropped the ornamentation.

      As to why your bell is not dated, often smaller bells were made up for inventory to fill orders as they came in. They didn’t want dated ones on hand in case they didn’t sell that year (like dated Christmas tree ornaments). Large bells weren’t cast until ordered, so they were almost always dated.

      Welcome to the American Bell Association. I hope you really enjoy your bell. I collected for quite a while before I came across a G. W. Coffin bell. You are fortunate to start out by finding one. — Neil

    • #15587
      Neil Goeppinger
      Participant

      Sorry Mike, I forgot to mention something in my previous post. I believe the arm for the rope should be mounted up instead of down. I’ve got almost the identical bell and the arm was mounted with the ring on top when I got it, and I’ve seen others and that is how they were mounted. Mine is mounted in front of my house and with the arm in the up position, it gives good leverage when swinging the bell to ring it. — Neil

    • #15591
      MikeR
      Member

      Hi Neil,

      Thanks for the excellent information. The arm could very well be upside down from its original configruation, I just reassembled it the way it was. Does it look like the washers, tapered ring, and arm are in the right assembly order? Do you know what type of mounting brackets a bell like this had? Sorry for all the questions but I want to get everything as close as possible to original.

    • #15592
      hjlong3
      Participant

      Most Coffin bells had a single harp bracket with side arms to provide stability. This one is smaller than others that I have seen and may have had a post-mounted bracket similar to those used by CS Church.
      Harry Long, MD

    • #15593
      MikeR
      Member

      Do you are anyone know where I can find a picture of the type of mount most approporate for my bell?

      Thanks,
      Mike

    • #15594
      Neil Goeppinger
      Participant

      Hi again, Mike, I have three G. W. Coffin bells, but the one which is the approximate size of yours didn’t come with stands. The other two are larger. I’m in Florida for the winter and my bells are up north, so I can’t take pictures until I go back. I’m not sure my stands are correct for your size bell, anyway. Sorry I’m not of more help. — Neil

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